Acclaimed director Avi Nesher, whose teenage son was killed in a Tel Aviv hit-and-run earlier this year, was notified Wednesday that he will light a torch at Israel’s 71st Independence Day ceremony next month.
The accident that killed 17-year-old Ari took place last September, one day after Nesher debuted his 20th film, “The Other Story,” at the Haifa film festival.
“Lighting the torch will not make up for my son’s death nor make it any easier for me, but it is still very joyful,” Nesher told the Ynet news site.
The director, who also produced the award-winning movies “Dizengoff 99” and “Turn Left at the End of the World,” said he would dedicate the prize to the Israeli film industry.
“I was a little surprised when I received the phone call from the culture minister,” Nesher said, noting the tense relationship between Miri Regev and his industry in light of her efforts to cut funding for works deemed “disloyal” to the state.
Yet, Nesher clarified, the culture minister had been among the first to reach out after his family was struck by tragedy.
“It will be a difficult moment in Jerusalem with my daughter and wife there but someone will be very missing,” Nesher added. “When I say ‘Long live the State of Israel,’ the picture of my son will be with me, as it is with me at every moment and every hour. It is engraved in my heart.”
In October, prosecutors filed an indictment against an Israeli soccer player accused of speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol, into Ari Nesher and another boy riding an electric bicycle, leaving them lying in the road as he made his escape, and then trying to cover up his involvement in the collision by repairing the damage to the car and lying to police.
Ari was seriously injured in the September 24 accident and succumbed to his wounds four days later. Police have also accused a 16-year-old, whose name has not been released, of riding with Nesher as a passenger on the bike, swerving into the car’s path, and riding without a helmet.
This year’s Independence Day theme is “The Israeli Spirit.”
On Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced that Lt. Col. Shai Siman Tov would light the torch reserved for the army. Siman Tov was the commander of the Golani’s twelfth battalion, and during an infamous 2014 Gaza battle in Shejaiya was critically injured and has since been wheelchair-bound.
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) April 18, 2019
“Colonel Shai Siman Tov symbolizes the determination of the spirit and strength of the soul to overcome the body’s ailments… I’m proud of you and salute you,” Kohavi said in a statement.
Also Wednesday, Regev announced that another torch lighting honor would be given to singer Yehudah Poliker, who is known for songs delving into the identity of the children of Holocaust survivors.
Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer, and Racheli Fraenkel, the mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, will also light a torch together at the ceremony.
Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped by Hamas-linked terrorists on the night of June 12, 2014, at a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem and killed soon afterwards. Their bodies were discovered June 30, in Halhul, near Hebron in the West Bank, after an 18-day search.
The kidnapping was later seen as a turning point in Operation Protective Edge, the Israel-Gaza conflict of summer 2014. The three mothers became unofficial spokespeople for unity during the conflict and afterwards.